Alaska suburbs to become less Alaska, more suburban

Changes are coming to the suburbs of Alaska:

PALMER, Alaska — For years, pet owners in this Anchorage suburb of big homes and lawns have fretted over snares set in the local parks by fur-trappers going after fox, lynx and rabbits. But in a quiet revolution this spring, dog lovers got the upper hand, and after a series of public meetings where few trappers showed up to fight back, trapping was banned by the borough council. The suburbs had won.

“That part of old Alaska is moving further out into the bush,” said Mike Albright, 44, a business owner who was lounging at a park with his three dogs on a recent afternoon. “It’s a good thing.”…

But many longtime residents, writers and businesspeople here said that the sense of “only in Alaska” exceptionalism underlying this place and its identity for generations is fading. Improvements in communications and transport are shrinking the sense of physical distance. High-speed internet is reaching tiny villages, opening communities and families to greater connection with the outside world for everything including social media and commerce.

Sadly, the rest of the article says little more about suburbs and instead looks at the whole state and the Alaska spirit. Yet, it is interesting that this nature-human interchange is used an example of how the suburbs are changing. This comes up occasionally with American suburbs across the country as some suburbs encroach on natural habitats while other places experience natural adaptation (such as overpopulations of deer or the reemergence of coyotes).

This could also lead to helpful questions of how people would know that Alaska suburbs are truly no different than other American suburbs. Cookie-cutter subdivisions? Little to no open land? A landscape dominated by single-family homes and driving? An emphasis on middle-class family life and excluding those who don’t fit those categories? Given that suburbs today take many forms, it may not be very easy to say Alaska suburbs have finally crossed the line.

Redistricting with “sociological integrity”

Redistricting can often a contentious activity. But what if it is done with “sociological integrity”?

“Districts are ordered generally to maintain sociological integrity. Seward was happy paired with Homer and Seldovia as having the only outside deep water ports for the Kenai Peninsula,” Seaton said. “Now Seward is with Nikiski and Sterling – Homer with no other ports; Seldovia with Kodiak.”

A well-ordered voting district is one that generally has an amiable sociological mix that share economic and cultural ties to work toward common legislative goals. Nonetheless, Homer fares well with other Lower Kenai Peninsula communities like Ninilchik and Kasilof, and now the Russian village of Nikolaevsk, which formerly was represented in an entirely different district. The residents of Funny River Road may lack common issues and it “could take a while to develop that cohesiveness,” Seaton said. “It’s just different issues because they are looking at a main economic structure that is inland and revolves around the river. Not that there’s anything wrong with their new alignment, it’s just people will need to feel their way through and acclimate to working with different areas and different interests.”…

Since Alaska is one of the few states once found guilty of gerrymandering districts to favor issues or candidates, Alaska elections are overseen by the Federal Election Commission to ensure a strong voice for electing a minority candidate.

I like this term, “sociological integrity,” and think it has potential if it generally referred to positive social outcomes and plans drawn up from sociological principles.

Perhaps this is unique to Alaska, but this sounds like a different way of drawing up legislative districts: they should have a “amiable sociological mix that share economic and cultural ties to work toward common legislative goals.” What sounds different about this is that districts in other states are often drawn to collect a certain number of votes for a particular party. Those in charge of redistricting want to solidfy their own positions and reduce the ability of their competition to compete in districts. The definition from this article refers not to votes but rather a shared cultural and economic history as uniting voters. Perhaps party affiliations are tied to this (an example from the article above: perhaps deep water port communities are all on one side) but cultural and economic ties are also important as this is how residents and community leaders connect with each other more frequently.

Does any other state consider cultural ties when drawing up legislative boundaries or is it all just a naked grab for votes?